Veggie meatball pasta

As you’ve probably guessed by now I love simple but tasty food and one meal that I’ve grown to appreciate is one of the nations favourites, good old spag bol.

Meatballs have been around for centuries with various ways of making them.

An ancient Roman cookbook Apicus included many meatball-type recipes.

Early recipes included in some of the earliest known Arabic cookbooks generally feature seasoned lamb rolled into orange-sized balls and glazed with egg yolk and sometimes saffron

This recipe though isn’t really about the meatballs it’s more about the sauce that accompanies it.

We all know a good sauce takes time but with a few clever hacks you can actually pack in so much flavour and save time.

Ingredients

Fresh rosemary

Fresh thyme

Fennel seeds

1 tin of plum or chopped tomatoes

Vegetable stock pot

1 carrot

6 cloves of garlic (hey don’t judge me. I like garlic)

2 onions

1 red chili pepper (optional)

1 packet of chopped butternut squash and sweet potato

Mushrooms

Celery

Glass of prosecco or red wine (optional)

Crème fraîche

Meatballs (optional)

Method

Whether you choose to buy readymade meatballs or make them yourself doesn’t really matter but if you are using meatballs at all, brown them in pan with a little olive oil.


Once brown remove from pan add a little knob of butter to same pan and put your chopped celery, onions and garlic and sweat until soft .

Add your chopped butternut squash and sweet potatoe, carrot, mushrooms and all your herbs.

Tinned tomatoes, wine, and vegetable stock pot are next. Leave on a medium heat to bubble away until potatoes and butternut squash are soft.

** Helpful hint

When your veg has been bubbling away for some time don’t be afraid to taste the sauce. Do you need more seasoning? Is the sauce a little sharp? Don’t be afraid to add that extra something that’s needed. **

Once everything is cooked, it’s time to whizz everything up. I love a slightly grainy sauce to go with my spaghetti but some like it smoother.


Once smooth, pop your sausage back in the pan with your meatballs and add a tablespoon of crème fraîche.

Once your pasta is cooked, add your pasta to the sauce so it can be fully coated. I always add a little of the water that I cooked the pasta in to the sauce just to loosen it .

All that’s left to do is to plate up.


Celery leaves are optional.

Sippin on Gin&Juice

I’ve been a huge gin fan for a very long time. It’s my general go to drink when I go out or at least a gin cocktail.

Gone are the days when you used to be warned about drinking it because it could make you depressed. Gin is big business these days! With so many flavours, liqueurs, and cocktails it really is a gin lovers paradise.
From its earliest origins in the middle ages, the drink has evolved from a herbal medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Gin was developed, based on the older Dutch liquor jenever and became popular in Great Britain. Some even say that the term ‘Dutch courage ‘ comes from the connection with a particular battle and the drink that later developed into what we know as gin today.

But despite the turbulent love / hate relationship with gin, the drink once known as a ‘mothers ruin ‘ or if you were drunk being called ‘Gin soaked’ it’s certainly having a renaissance now.

Sloe, damsons, greengage are all fruits that can be used as gin infusions. Even everyone’s favourite summer drink Pimms is another popular gin-based liqueur which is a fruit cup flavoured with citrus and spices

So here’s a little recipe that you can have a go with and create your own delicious flavoured gin.

Greengage Gin

  • 500 g greengages
  • 250 g castor sugar
  • 1 litre gin
  • 1.5 litre Kilner type jar
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 8 cloves

This is so simple. Once fruit is washed prick all over and pop into the kilner jar making sure the jar is sterilized first. Put your sugar, cloves, cinnamon in and then your gin. Give it a good shake and pop it in a dark cupboard. Give it a good shake each day for the next week and then leave it for the next 10 weeks or longer if you want.

Remember you can tweak this recipe to your liking so this year I added orange peel to mine as seen in the picture below.

Once you think gin is ready for your personal taste, strain into a fresh bottle and there you have it.

Happy sipping. Xx

Friday Night Cheat

So it’s Friday night which has always been takeaway night for me.

From a pretty early age I can remember waiting for my dad to get in from work getting excited with my sister’s thinking about what takeaway we were going to have. It was always a real treat because my mum who did the cooking in our family cooked every day except on a Friday. Don’t get me wrong she was and still is an excellent cook but what is about a cheeky Chinese? Or those chips from a chippy? That fried skin on chicken from KFC or that sauce on a Big Mac.

Fast forward a couple of decades later and here I am in my 30s still wanting my takeaway treat but not wanting the results of a takeaway on my waistline. (Someone pass me my kale smoothie). Still it’s not all bad and this recipe is about having a little bit of what you fancy and is super quick.

Enjoy. X

Naan bread pizza

Ingredients

Garlic naan bread

Haynes Gourmet candid jalapeno bbq sauce.

1 red onion

Mint sauce

Lamb meatballs (5 small, preferably homemade)

Mozzarella (roughly a 220g)

Method

First get your oven nice and hot 220° should be fine on a fan assisted oven.

In a frying pan lightly brown your lamb meatballs.

Take your garlic naan bread and spread the Haynes bbq sauce on top. Yes I am specifying this particular sauce. It’s sweet, spicy, slightly smokey and just delicious. (Find them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). My local deli sells their products so I’m never in short supply.

Next finely slice one red onion and mix mint sauce with them.

Take your meatballs and depending on the size half them and place them on your pizza along with slices of mozzarella. If you’re feeling brave add some candid jalapeno on top!

Pop in the oven for 5 mins and enjoy!

A little Bite Of Heaven

I don’t know what is about madeleines but they always transport me to some gorgeous French cafe where I’m sitting outside with a very small strong black coffee, eating these delicious small sponge cakes and enjoying the warm summer breeze.

While you could argue I have an overactive imagination, (I won’t stop you, I do!) I’m not a million miles away from the truth. Madeleines are French. It is a traditional small cake from Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in northeastern France .

These gorgeous mini cakes are so versatile and can be flavoured with rosewater as in this recipe, almonds, lemon zest, lavender, earl grey tea or even just vanilla. I have tried all these flavours (purely for research of course) and I couldn’t tell which one was my favourite because they really are all so good. However as this recipe is for the rosewater Madeleines I will say there is something rather special about its delicate flavour complimented by the sweet dusting of icing sugar.

My only warning about these petité delights are that they are ridiculously addictive.

Enjoy. Xx

Rosewater Madeleines

Ingredients

50g unsalted butter

45g italian 00 flour

1 tablespoon of rosewater

1 large egg

40g caster sugar

Pinch of salt

Icing sugar

Method

First melt the butter slowly and then leave to cool.

With an electric mixer or whisk beat the egg, caster sugar and salt until you get it nice and thick, or at the ribbon stage. This simply means that the mixture is thick enough for the beaters to leave a trail (or ribbon) of the batter on top of the mixture. you should be able to write the figure ‘8’ with the ribbon before it sinks back into the mixture. I generally aim for the thickness of hollandaise sauce or even mayonnaise.

Then using a sieve sprinkle in the flour. Fold in the flour with a wooden spoon then add the melted cold butter and rosewater. Mix well but not too vigorously. This is because we are in fact making a genoise batter. Instead of using chemical leavening, air is suspended in the batter during mixing to provide volume.

You then need to leave the batter mixture to rest in the fridge for an hour. I also call this making a cup of tea time. Once your hour has past take it out of the fridge and leave it get back up to room temperature for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220°c of 200 on a fan assisted oven.

Brush the Madeline tin with butter. Be generous. It makes them easier to pop out of the tin once cooked.

Now I used a 12 bun Madeleine tin and I used up all the batter but if you have a mini one just don’t put as much mixture in each mould. 1 tablespoon of cake mixture should be enough for each mould. Remember the heat of the oven will spread the mixture.

Bake for 3 to 5 minutes. Yes it really is that quick!! Once baked, turn out and let them cool on a rack. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.

Sharing is optional.

Cheesy soup

Yep you heard right, cheese in soup.

As much as i love packing in as much veg as possible in a soup,I always feel like i need that little bit of a naughty something to keep the universe balanced and me not wanting to raid the cupboard because I’ve only eaten vegetable soup.

So what cheese am i talking about? parmigiano reggiano. i don’t mean grating some in, I mean using the rind at the end of the cheese. Often i would throw the rind away until i discovered that it could make a soup or a sauce go from average to amazing. It instantly adds the gorgeous flavour of the cheese and  gives those veggies the extra kick they sometimes need.

The great thing is that these rinds can be frozen and kept for a few months until you’re ready to use them.

So heres a quick recipe for all you lovers of a balanced but seriously tasty veggie soup. 

Ingredients 

2 yellow onions

3cloves of garlic

2 carrotts 

Butternut squash and sweet potato mix

2 courgettes 

3 handfuls of spinach 

Vegetable or chicken stock

Knob of butter 


Method 

In a saucepan pop your butter in on a medium heat and sweat the chopped onions and garlic together until onions are translucent. 

Add all the other chopped  vegetables slightly frying and then adding the stock adding a good grinding of black pepper.  

Add the parmigiano rind and let everything bubble away until all the veg is really soft .  

Fish out the rind which will be soft but won’t dissolve. Blitz the soup and enjoy. Bread is optional. 


 


Banging Bread!

We all know there are certain things that can make the salivary glands go bonkers as soon as we smell their delicious sweet oder. For alot of people the smell of bacon or chips from the fish and chips shop wafting through the nostrils is enough to make the most staunch clean living person crumble.

For me its bread. The second i smell bread baking i start promising to do all sorts of things just for a slice of that freshly baked beauty. So it only seems fitting that i put a recipe up for one of my great loves.  This recipe is for focaccia bread. 

Forcaccia is a flat oven baked Italian bread. You use olive oil on the process of making it and i guess i would describe it as being close in style and texture to a pizza dough. The great thing about this bread is that you can top it with any herbs you fancy or fresh olives. The point is you can have fun with this and make your own amazing creation. So lets get baking.

Ingredients 

 The biga starter:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup warm water 
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast


The main dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting your work surface
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water 
  • 1 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • fresh or dried herbs of your choice 

Method 

In Italy dough is made with a starter called a biger which creates extra flavour by the fermenting process overnight. 

To make the biger, mix all your ingredients with the warm water, mixing well until combined.  Cover over with cling film and leave in a warm place to ferment overnight.

To make the dough add your water to the biga and gently fold in.  Don’t be worried about the water not fully mixing in as you now need to work in your main dough mix of flour and yeast. Gently fold together. The mix will still be wet and sticky and even lumpy but please don’t panic it should look this way. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and fold through the dough.  Once again cover in cling film and leave in a warm place until it’s doubled in size.

 I know what you’re thinking…will i ever get to making the actual focaccia, but trust me the extra time with the overnight fermenting and then your extra fermenting with the dough  mix is so worth it. 

Once your dough mix has grown in size use a spatula to gently pour into a oiled deep tray. Be generous with the olive oil.  It helps the bread come away from the tray after cooking more easily and also this bread is all about the delicious taste of the olive oil in it.

Gently stretch the dough and use your fingers to gently push into the corners of the tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for another 30 mins to prove.

In the meantime get that oven nice and warm  (240°c). Finish with your chosen toppings and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes. 


*handy tip ! By putting a tray of  cold water at the bottom of the oven it creates steam which forms a great crust.

A Foragers Delight

The wonderful thing about the different seasons in the year is what you can find to forage.

Blackberries in September, mushrooms in October or one of my favourites elderflower in June.

The great thing is, for beginners such as myself when it comes to foraging its so easy to find because once its in season its everywhere usually found along the roadside with its distinctive smell and look.

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So heres a quick recipe for the time conscious forager to make some elderflower liqueur.  This recipe is really simple and quick.

Enjoy  xx

Elderflower Liqueur

You will need

30 flower heads
2 litres of vodka
450g granulated sugar (although not straight away)

Once you have collected the elderflower  prepare the flowerheads by cutting off as much of the stalk as possible.

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I tend to do this outside and on a yellow or bright cloth as the bugs tend to be attracted to the colour.  I then put in a colander and give the heads a light rinse.

Then place the washed elderflower heads in a 2-litre, sterilised preserving jar and cover with the alcohol. Seal.

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Keep in a cool dark place for a month, shaking occasionally. The flowers will turn brown, but that’s fine as long as they are covered with alcohol… if necessary top up your jar with more vodka to keep them covered. (Yes any excuse!)

After a month, strain, and pour the clear liquid back into a newly sterilised jar. Add sugar, seal and shake. Return to a cool dark place and shake from time to time. Once the sugar has dissolved, it’s ready to drink!

This is totally delicious sipped on its own or added to a champagne cocktail.